Boston Marathon Recap: Our Weekend at The Greatest Race of Them All
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Boston Marathon recap, from pre-race to post-race and everything in-between
April 14-17, 2023
Adidas Adizero Adios Pro 3 (Thomas & Robbe), Nike Alphafly v1 (Meg), Asics Superblast (Brandon)
As the official sponsor of the Boston Marathon, Adidas invited some of the Believe in the Run team and other run media to experience the 127th Boston Marathon. This is our recap of the race and our time spent in Boston.
After traveling around the world to the Tokyo Marathon just six weeks ago, an hour-and-a-half plane flight from Baltimore to Boston felt like teleportation. We didn’t even get drink service! Wide Foot Jarrett was super upset about this because he loves free stuff. Southwest, you owe him a baby can of Coca-Cola. Anyway, we landed in Boston around 3:00, checked into our hotel at Copley Square, then headed straight to the expo to pick up our bibs.
Before we get to the expo, let me talk about the way Boston does the Boston Marathon. In other cities (like our hometown of Baltimore), the marathon is treated almost as a nuisance. In fact, I’m positive most people forget it’s happening until the day of. Not in Boston. The marathon in Boston is their thing, intertwined with the DNA of the city. From the banners on every street post, to the signage in almost every place of business, it’s apparent that Bostonians are proud of the marathon and the legacy it holds. Not just in running, but throughout the world. It is the stage on which the city of Boston performs its best. When you’re there, you feel like the whole city’s heartbeat taps in a runner’s cadence.
That energy was already apparent as we headed to the expo. We must have picked a great time, because the lines were virtually non-existent and getting our bibs was a quick and easy process. From there we checked out the Adidas gear area since they’re the official gear sponsor of the Boston Marathon. Though the gear was extremely tempting, we forced ourselves to keep calm with the credit card since we already got a nice swag package of Boston-branded gear courtesy of Adidas.
The one standout thing about the Boston Marathon expo is that there’s about 20 places to take your bib photo with a cool backdrop. So instead of waiting in lines for photos, you could kind of just go anywhere. It was great. Honda even had an awesome 360-degree video area that used your own phone to capture a fun, 10-second clip. You didn’t even have to give them your email address! It was like living in the ‘90’s again. Also, Sam Adams was giving out free beer. Hell yeah.
After grabbing our bibs, an attempt was made to get dinner. I say attempt, because we didn’t have restaurant reservations and Newbury Street on Boston Marathon weekend looks like discount day at Disney World. Lesson learned and a tip to all those running Boston in the future– if you’re staying downtown, book dinner reservations for every night you’re in Boston.
We ended up going to our hotel restaurant, which was fine, and then called it a night, but not before watching two hours of “Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives.”
Rule #1 of Boston Marathon weekend: Guy Fieri’s soul patch is a race day amulet to ward off any bad vibes. If you know, you know.
Got up early and headed over to the just-opened, permanent New Balance store on Newbury Street (124 Newbury St.). The space is curated with select New Balance products, ranging from collabs like Parks Project to tried-and-true staples like the 574 and 990v6. Of course, the FuelCell line had its own section as well, featuring shoes like the new Propel v4, SC Trainer, and the race-ready SC Elite v3.
On that morning, we were there for our carb box giveaway with Featherstone Nutrition (you should definitely check her out because she will get you on your best game for race day). Over 250 people RSVP-ed for the speciality boxes that were chock full of everything needed to carb up before the big day.
Inside the box were four bagels, a box of animal crackers, a sleeve of graham crackers, hydration mixes, a custom water bottle, a custom New Balance/Believe winter cap, $25 gift card to the New Balance store, and a whole lot more. Unlike most of our events, this one had specific time slots for pick-up which was kind of nice because we got to meet and talk to everyone on a more personal level. Thanks to everyone who grabbed a box, we hope it came in handy for race weekend!
After the New Balance event, we headed over to The Lenox hotel for a panel discussion on upcoming products in the New Balance family. Can’t really talk about what we saw, but we can say that you should probably/definitely be excited about the upcoming FuelCell offerings and the Rebel redemption.
That afternoon, we headed to Fenway Park with Adidas and some other media personnel for a matchup between the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Angels. It was our second time at Fenway and we had seats in the grandstand behind home plate for all the action. As Orioles fans, we may have been rooting for the Red Sox to lose, but they came from behind in the eighth inning to lock up a dub. Honestly, it was a pretty great experience to hear a raucous, sold-out crowd in the iconic, matchbox-size ballpark.
Afterwards, Thomas headed back to the hotel while Wide Foot Jarrett, Brandon, and myself headed to dinner for a nice Italian meal at Piattini on Newbury Street.
Rule #2 of Boston Marathon weekend: Never say “stop” when the parmesan grinder comes around.
First off, let me say that the amount of group runs and activities going on this year at Boston was absolutely off-the-charts. No joke, you could easily do a marathon of just shakeout runs during Boston Marathon weekend, and probably just on Sunday alone.
Of course, none was as good as the one at the Asics Run Shop (299 Newbury St.), hosted by yours truly– the Believe in the Run team. And what an event it was. Hundreds of you showed up and made it a rockin’ party that rivaled all others that morning. We had custom t-shirt printing, hat giveaways, photos with the best Boston background art in the city, shoe try-ons, and of course, a shakeout run.
We did an out-and-back along the Charles River in the morning mist and came back to some bagels and coffee, followed by an hour-long hangout sesh. Not gonna lie, it was a little exhausting, but it was also exhilarating. Thanks so much to everyone who came out, and don’t forget to check out the Dropbox to grab your photos from the run (they’re free!).
After the shakeout run, we shot some content for Running Warehouse then headed to the Ciele pop-up to grab a few Boston caps for race day (they were awesome, by the way). Then we grabbed lunch from Pressed Cafe with Kofuzi, Meghann Featherstun, and Conor from Running Warehouse, before heading back to our hotel to rest.
That evening, we all ordered Dirty Water Dough Co. pizza to go, some of us ate in the lobby of the hotel, and basically just chilled out and watched a bunch of episodes of “I Think You Should Leave.”
Rule #3 of Boston Marathon weekend: Pizza before race day, and chicken parmesan pizza if possible. Eat to your heart’s content, then eat a bagel in bed for dessert.
Sleep was hit-or-miss for some of us, though Thomas and Brandon both got some good Z’s. Boston race morning is quite different than other races in that the race itself starts later in the morning (the elites don’t go off until almost 9:30 a.m.). So while Meaghan grabbed an earlier bus, Thomas, Brandon, and myself all headed out around 8:15 for a 9:15 bus ride.
The skies were overcast, and we knew rain was somewhere in the forecast, just no idea where or when it would happen.
Let me just say here that the Boston Marathon has things figured out, and every race director should experience it once. Of course, they have a Heartbreak Hill-size pile of money and resources to make it happen, a century of experience, and may or may not be the most iconic road race in the world. But the execution of logistics from beginning to end was flawless.
I mean, taking 30,000 runners on school buses from downtown Boston to a high school in Hopkinton is impressive in itself. Doing it seamlessly, on time, and having it as user-friendly as an iPhone is a monumental feat. Also, all the volunteers were overly friendly, even on a rainy day, which was just wonderful.
Anyway, it started raining on our bus ride to the start (which was the same time Meaghan and her pacer Ben Johnson started the race). Things were wet when we arrived at the holding area, but we were lucky enough to hang out underneath the tent until it eventually stopped. We brought throwaway clothes and shoes and discarded them there.
Speaking of shoes, for race day, here was the lineup:
Before we knew it, we heard the announcer calling us to the start corrals, and after going to the bathroom for the third time, we were walking the 0.7-mile road to the somewhat unassuming start line. Honestly, I wouldn’t have realized it was the start if it wasn’t for the camera crane right above it.
Brandon could’ve started in the wave 1 corral since he qualified last year with a blazing 2:41 marathon, but seeing that he hadn’t trained since Tokyo (and really even before Tokyo), he dropped back and ran with Thomas and myself. And since we got our bibs from Adidas, we were running in the next-to-last-corral. Needless to say, once we crossed that start line, the pace was a little bit slower than what we’re used to.
Since the first few miles are essentially run on a two-lane country road, the race was more of a moving mass of people for the first four miles. When I say mass of people, I mean it was an actual wall– you weren’t getting around and going any faster than the prescribed pace of the masses, which was around 9:45/mile. On one hand it was good, because we needed to save our legs, but it was also a bit challenging to slow down that much in the Boston freakin’ Marathon.
Meaghan, of course, had started much earlier and was already far ahead with her pacer Ben Johnson (who is just an absolute saint, btw). For the day, she was aiming for a 2:45 finish, and had a whole group of about 15 people with her at the start gunning for the same thing. However, thanks to the aforementioned crowds, their number was trimmed to about three in no time.
While Meg had her goal pace locked in for the first half of the race, things slowed down in the Newton Hills. However, Ben stayed with and offered his best encouragement, pulling her along and through the final miles in the race. In the last mile, the skies opened up and the rain began to pour, which was kind of an epic finish.
And though it wasn’t a sub-2:45, it was a PR at 2:47:10, which all of us here at Believe in the Run think is huge, especially on that course. To put into perspective how far ahead she was of the rest of the crew– Thomas and Brandon found out about Meg’s finish before they even hit the halfway point.
Meanwhile, the rain was coming down on the boys back at mile 12. Luckily, it only lasted for a couple miles. By this point, I had separated myself from Thomas and Brandon because I’m impatient and had to see just how shitty I could feel during the Boston Marathon.
Approaching mile 13, we could hear the infamous Wellesley Scream Tunnel. The stories are true– you can hear it from a mile away, and this was three hours after the race started, in the rain. Personally, that was my fastest mile as the siren song of the Wellesley girls pulled me into its vortex. Let me tell ya– it was loud. I don’t think a better pick-me-up could exist at the halfway point in any other race.
One quick qualm about the Wellesley Scream Tunnel – what’s with the name? It’s not a tunnel in any sense of the word; the Wellesley girls are all on one side of the barrier. If anything, it’s more of a wall or border. Maybe it used to be both sides of the road? If someone has any insight, please leave a comment below.
From there, it was the daunting Newton Hills, which– when taken easy– really aren’t as bad as they’re made out to be, especially if you’re used to running hills. They’re not steep, but they are long, and they do come at the worst time in a race, with Heartbreak Hill starting around 20.5. And if you are hammering out a PR pace, then yeah, they’re gonna hurt.
Once past the hills, it was mostly downhill. Things seemed to drag for awhile, especially through miles 23 and 24. For Thomas and Brandon, things were going relatively well, and they ran into Jenn from New Balance at mile 23, who was feeling the effects of the Newton Hills. Instead of pushing ahead, they teamed up to bring her into the finish. Over the next three miles, they stuck with her until they all crossed the finish at the same time. The way she turned it around in the last miles and smiled through the pain was impressive and inspirational, to say the least.
Let’s talk about the finish. There’s just nothing like the legendary right turn onto Hereford and the left onto Boylston. From there, the finish is 600 meters dead ahead. All pain disappeared and suddenly I was able to run again. Both sides of the street are packed with crowds, and simply raising your hands elicits a roar from the spectators. It’s kind of an incredible thing. It’s a moment you want to end because that means the race is over, but it’s also an experience you want to extend into forever because it’s the race of your life. There’s just nothing else like it.
After that, we grabbed our medals and a couple space blankets, then headed back to the hotel. Met some friends, had some drinks, had some dinner, had some more drinks, had some more drinks, said goodnight, had some more drinks, and went to bed.
Boston, you were beautiful beyond words. We will be back.
Rule #4 of Boston Marathon weekend: Tape your nipples unless you want everyone asking you how bad your nipples hurt (truthfully, not bad). Also, pocket as many Maurtens as possible along the course so you don’t have to buy any for the next training cycle.
Special thanks to all the believers who came out and said hello at one of our events, who stopped us on the sidewalk or in the hotel, who stood in the rain and cheered for us on the course when we needed it most. You’re in our hearts forever.
Thanks to Ben Johnson for pacing duties, we know you could’ve run a much faster race, but you’re as selfless as they come.
Thanks to Adidas for the race bibs for Thomas and myself, and for the race shoes and gear. I never knew how much I needed a Boston Marathon track suit in my life. Also, the Adios Pro 3 performed wonderfully, and we were honestly shocked at how fresh our legs felt the next day. Apparently it also worked well for the actual sponsored athletes because you swept the podium on the men’s side.
Thanks to New Balance for hosting our carb box giveaway with Featherstone Nutrition, we know those boxes helped get at least 250 people to the start line with a full tank of gas.
Thanks to Asics for hosting our shakeout run, it truly blew us away to see the amount of people that came out to it.
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Robbe is the senior editor of Believe in the Run. He loves going on weird routes through Baltimore, finding trash on the ground, and running with the Faster Bastards. At home in the city, but country at heart. Loves his two boys more than anything. Has the weakest ankles in the game.
All-time favorite shoes: Nike Epic React, Saucony Endorphin Speed 2 Runshield, Asics Metaspeed Edge+More from Robbe